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Re: [LUG] Linux Training


On 13/02/17 20:09, Paul Sutton via list wrote:

>> I would go with a Virtualbox VM .. I have yet to do it fully myself, but
>> its on the top of the to-do list ...
> I have tried virtual box and failed,  there is a young lad who comes to
> the tech jam who is trying to run ubuntu in virtual box and finding all
> sorts of problems.
> As Linux is my main system I am using Kvm (virtual machine manager  or
> something ) which is a front end to Qemu I think,  that works really well.
> Virtual box needs to work out of the box, if you, the expert in their
> eyes, fails or hits barriers it will just look bad.
> Given how cheap a Raspberry Pi 3 is,  perhaps one solution would be to
> buy one,  the default OS is raspbian and it comes with Libreoffice etc,
> maybe let them have a go.  the command line can come later, when there
> is a need for it.
> Paul

I've done a lot of OS to OS migrations for people over the years, both
to (hooray) and from (boo) Linux but generally speaking, it's always a
case of using the right tool for the right job and beyond the initial
expert advice, I have to respect the client's choice. I've had 'problem'
customers before flip-flop between all three of the main choices
(Lin/Win/Mac) whilst trying to find the right scratch for their
particular itch which whilst being frustrating for me, has taught me one
major truth: change always freaks people out a little bit unless they're
genuine techies who like challenges and playing with new stuff. Needless
to say, this doesn't describe a lot of typical switchers...

Largely it's the shock of an unfamiliar environment that does them in,
regardless of whether you're showing an experienced Microsoft veteran
their first Linux desktop or vice versa. And when things go wrong, which
they will, despite the fact that they probably weren't ever able to fix
things themselves in their primary environment they will be doubly
frustrated that they can't now magically fix things in the new one which
of course doesn't make any sense - it's almost as if they're
concentrating on the wrong thing, hoping somehow that the magic bullet
of changing the toolset will miraculously fix the underlying issue
instead of concentrating on actually fixing the underlying issue.

So as the technical help, it's only prudent to test out the waters with
a failsafe - Eion's step by step softly softly approach is a great one,
but requires a lot of time, hand holding and patience: it also won't
scale beyond a couple of people well (I've migrated entire businesses in
one go before which requires a very different approach). Quite frankly
this means if they only have one major computing device then it's either
dual-booting, which is cumbersome and awkward, virtualization, or they
need a secondary device to test the Linux waters in complete safety. A
Raspberry Pi works beautifully for testing out low impact desktop-type
functionality as they are cheap as hell and can be re-purposed for a
million things if it doesn't work out. Failing that, an easily
Linux-able Chromebook or a second hand laptop can be had for very, very
little these days and make an ideal unit for checking the migration path.

Saying that, VBox (other desktop-focussed virtualization packages exist
of course but they're either not free or don't run on Windows, which I'm
assuming 99% of all potential switchers are coming from) is I believe
obviously by far the best tool for this job, with the single proviso
that their current Windows box needs to be able to run it properly! No
point in trying to host a full desktop flavour Linux VM on a creaky 32
bit single core with 1Gb RAM and no virt extensions of course, which
unfortunately quite a few of these switchers do tend to be running -
especially the elderly types looking to simplify their bewildering
Windows-based old PCs.

VBox will let them keep Windows and their usual system as a safety
harness whilst playing with (potentially) several different update
choices all with the usual safety of a virtualized platform - as the
admin, you can let them play with completely sandboxed impunity knowing
it doesn't matter if the test system gets utterly hosed: you just wind
it back to the snapshot. Install TeamViewer or a similar tool on the
host OS and you can even dial in and reset the VM(s) remotely the moment
they get in trouble. It's a MUCH better solution than giving them a new
dual booted or bare metal Linux system to try and then immediately
giving them a lengthy list of stuff they absolutely must NOT do (login
as root, install random stuff via sudo, touch the partitioning or
bootloader, etc, etc) for risk of trashing the box.

VBox, providing the host machine isn't hopelessly outdated and weak,
will happily use hardware acceleration (including graphics) and go
fullscreen, effectively "hiding" the host completely once it's up and
running. This gives as close as possible to a "native" user experience
as you're going to get outside of having an entire spare machine or dual
booting and is entirely, 100% usable - I've worked for months on end at
places where even for sysadmins, changing the bare metal (i.e., Windows)
OS is verboten so I've simply installed VBox, imported one of my VM
templates and just lived and worked entirely inside it with fullscreen
quite happily.

It's also trivial to install, setup and configure, almost to the point
of being child's play and I'm a little unsure as to quite how it could
go wrong? Even leaving everything at install defaults and reflexively
clicking next > next > next at the New VM wizard will give you a working
and functional system every time. Now I'm not going to deny that things
can get hairy inside the virtualized OS every now and then if you start
mucking around with weird stuff but hey, we're not letting the switchers
configure this are we? It's up to the original admins (i.e., us) to set
everything up properly to start with and I'd humbly suggest that if
setting up a Virtualbox instance without any drama is proving too hard
then something is SERIOUSLY wrong and for once, it's not the user's fault :/

Not casting aspersions on either Paul or the young lad in his post
having difficulties (quite the contrary, at least he's having a go) but
for goodness' sake, IT stuff doesn't get much easier than setting up a
new VBox OS instance for testing out a new OS safely on non-prehistoric
hardware! I hereby foolishly volunteer myself to field any questions
about this whatsoever so if anyone is having issues with VBox just go
ahead and ask. I don't particularly mean to evangelise VBox and Oracle
certainly aren't paying me to but virtualization is now such a critical
part of any IT bods toolset it slightly boggles my mind that there's
anyone left who isn't routinely using it day in, day out. There aren't
really a lot of problems that it's not applicable to anymore, including
hand-holding OS switchers through the murky waters of changing

Seriously, I may regret this, but if anyone has virtualization questions
including "why the hell should I care about this", ask away.

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